By: Elie Lipnik  | 

Eichler Stepping down as Dean, Plans to Re-Join Faculty After Sabbatical

Earlier in the semester, in a town hall meeting at Stern College, President Richard Joel announced that Dean Eichler will be stepping down as Dean of Yeshiva College. After taking a sabbatical next year, he will be returning to YU as a professor. The news led to many questions from the students, wondering why he was leaving, who would be filling his position, and what will he be doing instead. These concerns led to an in-person, one-on-one interview with Dean Eichler in which these issues were discussed.

After forty years of teaching at the University of Pennsylvania as a professor of Assyriology in the Department of Near Eastern languages and Civilizations and as a curator of the Babylonian Table Collection of Penn’s University Museum, Eichler made the decision to join the YU faculty as a full time professor in 2008. After his first year of teaching at YU, Eichler was asked to become the dean of Yeshiva College, after the previous dean, Dean Srolovitz, made a last-minute decision to leave YU.

Even though Eichler had only been teaching full-time at YU for one year, the administration felt that he possessed all the skills required to be a successful dean. Eichler was at first reluctant to accept the position since he had hoped to transition to YU in order to teach and complete his research agenda. He finally agreed to take on the administrative responsibilities, however, out of a commitment to his alma mater (from which he graduated in 1960) which found itself in a difficult administrative situation. He also had been “delighted with his first-year experience at YC, impressed with the progress YU was making, and excited to work with its impressive faculty.”

Originally, however, Dean Eichler only accepted the position for two years, to fill in during the interim, until a replacement would be found. However, with time, Dean Eichler found himself really enjoying both the challenge of being dean and the accomplishments achieved along the way. Soon two years quickly became four. When he approached the provost once again to inquire about the length of his employment as dean, then-Provost Lowengrub told Dean Eichler that the administration and faculty would like him to stay on for another two years. Moreover, during this time, Provost Lowengrub planned to retire and thought it best to have the same dean, for the sake of continuity, during that transitional period.

Again, with reluctance, Dean Eichler signed a final two-year contract. Another reason for his desire to resign from the deanship was his belief that there was much to gain from training faculty members to participate broadly in the university administration, specifically in this capacity. Each new dean brings new ideas and new energy. Finally, after six years, Dean Eichler will be stepping down from his position as Dean of YC and will be taking a sabbatical to re-engage in his research. After his time away, he will return to YU as a full-time faculty member teaching in both Revel and YC.

Reflecting on his time as Dean of Yeshiva College, Eichler explained that he was proud to have been instrumental in several areas of institutional upkeep, which has remarkably impacted the College The first was helping to lead the successful implementation of YC’s Core Curriculum which was a major revision of YC’s general education requirements. Dean Eichler explained that he “was thrilled to see how well the faculty discerned the unique educational issues confronting the YC student body and what was important for them to experience and learn.” He was awed by the energy of the faculty to create, develop, and implement such a major curricular change. Dean Eichler also played an important role in faculty development and faculty governance. He delighted in the opportunity to mentor junior tenure-track faculty and to see them emerge as noted scholars in their respective fields with their earning promotion to tenured faculty status. Assisting the faculty in implementing its own governance structure and the empowerment of the faculty in its essential role within the university “was also a source of great satisfaction.”

One final area in which Dean Eichler believed he made an impact was that of academic advising. When he first took his position, advising was one of the poorest-rated units of the College. During his second year as dean, with great assistance from Dean Sugarman, the Wilf Campus Advising Center was revamped. With an emphasis on freshman advising, they became a proactive service rather than a reactive one, and they began working more closely with both the Registrar’s Office and Admissions. Major advising was shifted to the departments, with excellent support by the Advising Center for the departmental major advisors. As a result, there was greater student satisfaction expressed from the YU community.

Looking towards the future, Dean Eichler envisions quite a bright one for YU. Although Dean Eichler is not a proponent of a co-educational institution, he believes that the integration of both Stern and YC’s undergraduate faculty would allow for the development and creation of a stronger undergraduate academic program. Dean Eichler feels that the integration of faculty, academic resources, student support services and administrative offices could best be achieved if Stern and YC remain as separate campuses, yet be in closer proximity to one another. The closer proximity would allow for the sharing of common resources, that would lead to an academically better and more fiscally viable YU. Earlier attempts at a quick unification of the faculty had failed. Although there are many issues that must be sorted out and many obstacles to overcome, Dean Eichler believes that academic and administrative integration must continue to be explored in deliberate but measured ways. Now that the integration is taking place on the level of the dean, he believes that with enlightened leadership it can truly be successful. Under the auspices of both Dean Bacon and Professor Joanne Jacobson as Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, Dean Eichler feels that he can leave his position knowing the university will be in good hands, hands that can affect positive change in wise consultation with both faculty and students.